Purpose of review: To provide an overview of recent studies exploring the gut microbiota in pathogenesis and treatment of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
Recent findings: Primary bacterial gut disturbances have been linked to the development and severity of IBS. Dysbiosis, or alteration in the normal intestinal flora, modulates intestinal permeability, inflammation, gut motility and likely quality of life. These biomechanical changes are associated with enteric and central nervous system processing as well. When compared to healthy controls, IBS patients display poor quality of life measures and are at increased risk of depression and anxiety. The severity of psychological and gastrointestinal symptoms in IBS has been linked with a distinct intestinal microbiota signature. Efforts to modulate intestinal dysbiosis in IBS have shown little improvement in large systematic reviews. The low FODMAP diet reduces bacteria, such as Bifidobacterum and Actinobacteria. Although rifaximin improves symptoms, it may only stimulate a transient effect on the gut microbiota. Fecal microbiota transplant does not provide prolonged symptom relief in IBS.
Summary: This review elucidates recent advances in IBS and the gut microbiota. Microbiota changes are one underlying factor in perpetuating global IBS symptoms. The opportunity to exploit this disturbance through treatment modalities requires further investigation.